Change in the management team of the Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany as of 1 April 2023 

Karsten Löffler and Michael Schmidt in an interview with Kristina Jeromin

The Board of Directors of the Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany e. V. (GSFCG) has appointed Michael Schmidt as Managing Director and special representative of the association with effect from 1 April 2023. Michael Schmidt succeeds Karsten Löffler and will work in tandem with Kristina Jeromin to drive forward the strategic development of the association in the dynamic field of sustainable finance.

For the recent Cluster Newsletter, Kristina Jeromin spoke with Karsten Löffler and Michael Schmidt about the Cluster, sustainable finance and the opportunities and challenges in building sustainable financial structures.

Karsten, what originally excited you about the idea of the Cluster and then convinced you to become managing director?

Löffler: The Cluster is a great initiative that brings together many large and important players in the financial sector. Everyone is united by the goal of working together on solutions and in this way also mastering one or the other challenge. Basically, it was a continuation of my mandates at Allianz, now only in the German financial centre and going beyond insurance and asset management. At UNEP FI, for example, I had already come to appreciate the collaborative approach as Chair of the Climate Change Advisory Group. In this respect, I did not have to think long.

Looking back over the last five years, what excited you most about working in the management team and what were the challenges?

Löffler: In the past five years, the perception of the importance of a financial sector that is sustainable in an environmental and social sense has multiplied. In my opinion, there has rarely been a more exciting time to be involved in shaping it. As Managing Director of the Cluster, I have tried to realise this with a great deal of enthusiasm and – hopefully – always with an eye on what is ambitious and practically feasible; be it in the work with the financial institutions involved in the Cluster, at the German level in the Sustainable Finance Advisory Board or in Brussels in the Technical Expert Group and the Sustainable Finance Platform. I consider the work of the Cluster and the participating institutions in the Net Zero Banking Alliance Germany to be particularly worthwhile. However, I wish there were fewer challenges… e.g., Keeping an eye on the actual goal in front of all the question marks in the implementation of the quite extensive regulation, namely to accompany the customers in the transformation of their business models by financing. I would also like to see more standardisation, especially with regard to the availability of and access to sustainability data.

You have exciting new topics ahead of you. Can you tell us something about your new project – and can we hope in the Cluster that you will stay with us at least a little bit?

Löffler: I have already taken over the co-leadership of the Global Shield Solutions Platform ( in the International Advisory Services division of the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management as of 1 January 2023. This is a new multi-donor trust fund for the development and financing of Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance (CDRFI) solutions, which will be supported by Germany and Denmark and probably other countries. CDRFI solutions are an important milestone for the financial protection of climate-related damage and losses in countries of the Global South. They aim to be able to provide financial assistance quickly if the worst comes to the worst. I had already worked on this topic during my years at Allianz and now and then in the context of similar projects at the Frankfurt School UNEP Centre. It will be very exciting to help shaping the design of CDRFI solutions. This ranges from claims models, data procurement, training for decision-makers in the country, the development of risk transfer concepts and solutions to supporting the implementation, e.g., by paying insurance premiums.

I will certainly remain closely connected with the Cluster and the Cluster community. Time will tell what that will look like in detail; there is still plenty to do. I would like to thank for the long and very trustful cooperation, especially with you, Kristina, the board and everyone who was and is active in the Cluster. You and Michael will be a great team that will set new impulses. I have my fingers crossed for you.

“The Cluster is a great initiative that brings together many large and important players in the financial sector.”

Michael, you have made a lot of progress in the field of sustainable finance in recent years. What were the most exciting stations for you?

Schmidt: I am happy if I have been able to contribute to the understanding and anchoring of sustainable finance. There were many exciting moments, which I was able to describe in my contribution to the book you co-edited*). Basically, it all started with my somewhat unexpected role in the HLEG** 2017-2018. I was the only representative from Germany and new to the Brussels processes, but quickly realised what a transformative project the EU Commission had in mind with Sustainable Finance. I felt a responsibility to discuss these developments intensively with many stakeholders in Germany as well. This is how, with your initiative at Deutsche Börse and together with the Hub for Sustainable Finance and the DVFA, the first Sustainable Finance Summit Germany came about, a great multi-stakeholder project. A great dynamic developed, which excited me and which I was able to accompany: Emergence of the Cluster, decision of the State Secretary’s Committee for Sustainable Development, which was followed by the establishment of the Sustainable Finance Advisory Council.

In addition to this policy work, I was particularly pleased to be able to implement sustainability in my responsibilities in asset management over many years: from integration into fund management to the development of investment solutions for different client groups to anchoring in the corporate strategy. From this experience, I also know that sustainable finance is an evolutionary process that requires conviction, perseverance and communication.

What drives you?

Schmidt: Ultimately, it was and is a concern of mine – and I say this also as a sober investor convinced of free market forces – that people in the financial sector see sustainability as an opportunity for meaning and value creation in their actions – purpose and performance. And that in this way, Germany’s financial centre also corresponds to the economic and political importance of our country.

What made you decide to support the Cluster as Managing Director and where do you see its potential, especially with regard to its positioning in the national, European and international sustainable finance movement?

Schmidt: In my view, the Cluster is the central contact point and platform for sustainable finance in Germany. We also need it – because particularly from international partners, I am repeatedly asked in a striking manner which telephone number they should call us on this topic. Unfortunately, the answer today is still: it’s complicated. But the Cluster can be exactly that number. Because the Cluster is not a monolithic association of particular interests. Rather, it has the connectivity for the diverse activities and actors in Sustainable Finance. This is the added value that I would like to further promote with the members, the sponsors and all interested stakeholders – also for a leading German location.

“In my view, the Cluster is the central contact point and platform for sustainable finance in Germany.”